February 2, 2020 / 3:24 AM / 21 days ago

Coronavirus kills Chinese man in Philippines, first death outside China

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines on Sunday said that a 44-year-old Chinese man had died of the new coronavirus, the first fatality outside of China, prompting tighter travel restrictions for both Filipinos and foreigners.

The Department of Health said there were now two confirmed infections in the Philippines, including the man from Wuhan in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, who died on Saturday.

The man, who was admitted to a government hospital in Manila on Jan. 25, had developed severe pneumonia, the department said.

In China, the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak had reached 304 as of the end of Saturday, state broadcaster CCTV said on Sunday, citing the country’s National Health Commission, with recorded cases of infections at more than 14,000.

The man who died was a companion of a 38-year-old Chinese woman, also from Wuhan, who was the first to test positive for the virus in the Philippines.

Both patients arrived in the Philippines via Hong Kong on Jan. 21, the health department said.

While the patient who died was “stable and showed signs of improvement” during his last few days in the hospital, his condition deteriorated in the 24 hours before he died, Health Secretary Francisco Duque told reporters.

“We are currently working with the Chinese embassy to ensure the dignified management of the remains according to national and international standards to contain the disease,” he said.

Duque said all measures needed to contain the spread of the virus were being strictly implemented and followed, including by health personnel who came in contact with the two patients.

FAST-EVOLVING

“This health event is fast-evolving and fluid. We are continuously recalibrating our plans and efforts as the situation develops,” Duque said.

Some Filipinos were worried after health officials announced the first fatality of the new coronavirus in the Philippines.

“It really is frightening because the virus will spread,” said 49-year-old Lyn Romano, who has been wearing a face mask since last week, when the Philippines’ first positive case was confirmed.

Twenty-four patients previously under investigation for infection tested negative for the new coronavirus, while samples from four other patients were still being tested, the health department said.

Passengers aboard the flights of the two positive cases were being traced.

Cebu Air Inc, which operates Cebu Pacific airline, said it was working closely with health authorities to contact all passengers aboard those two flights on Jan. 21.

The two patients had taken Cebu Pacific flights from Hong Kong to Cebu and from Cebu to Dumaguete in central Philippines, the airline said in a statement.

The cabin crew and pilots on affected flights have been quarantined, and the aircraft have undergone thorough disinfection, it said.

Cebu Air and two other Philippine carriers, Philippine Airlines and the local unit of AirAsia Group Bhd, have cancelled flights to China this month, joining many others around the world that have done the same.

The health department’s announcement came shortly after the Philippine government expanded its travel ban to include all foreigners coming from China, Hong Kong and Macau. It had previously restricted only those from Hubei.

A sign is posted on a medical supply store that says surgical and N95 masks are already out of stock, in Manila, Philippines, January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Foreigners who have been to China, Hong Kong and Macau within 14 days of travelling to the Philippines will also be barred from entering the country, aviation officials said.

Filipinos have been prevented from travelling to China and its special administrative regions, while those arriving from those places will be placed under 14-day home quarantine.

(This story was refiled to remove extraneous words in paragraph 9 and restore dropped words in paragraphs 19, 21)

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz in Manila and Akshay Balan in Bangalore; additional reporting by Jay Ereno, Peter Blaza; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Gerry Doyle and David Goodman

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